By: Dr Norbani Ismail
This year, with the grace of Allah, we will welcome and experience Ramadhan during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Nevertheless, the blessings of Ramadhan as the month of spiritual rejuvenating will remain for us to reap. The collective aspect of Ramadhan this year may be missing, but individually we still have the opportunity to observe the spiritual, social, emotional and physical dimensions that Ramadhan has to offer. The Qur’an (Q, 2:183) mentions fasting is a form of self-purification that helps us to attain spiritual elevation through God’s consciousness and piety. Ramadhan is the time for spiritual exertion through myriads of virtuous deeds. Within the confinement of our homes, we can pursue the manifold rewards of congregational prayers including the tarawih with our family members. The MCO has saved our time to commute to work, therefore we can allocate the extra time we gain to a more family-oriented ibadah. Our family now can perform voluntary night prayers and make them a rewarding spiritual experience. Our Ramadhan can be filled with meaningful family activities such as daily recitation, contemplation, and memorization of the Qur’an, reading Islamic books and listening or watching Islamic lectures. Even preparing iftar together as a family can be an experience both emotionally and spiritually gratifying.
Fasting in Ramadhan during MCO does not mean we lack opportunity to be socially engaging. The Prophet (PBUH) mentioned that Ramadhan is the month of charity. We can be charitable to the needy among our relatives, friends, neighbours and the orphans who have been affected financially. We may consider volunteering to the good causes because it is a form of charitable act. We can help out our neighbours to get groceries or medication who can’t do that by themselves, or assist our community to prepare the PPE for the front-liners of COVID-19. We must not forget to also offer the best gift to our families, friends and everyone we know by keeping them in our du’as. Observing Ramadhan during MCO does not mean we completely forgo its social dimension, rather we just need to be more creative and proactive in grasping it.
The financial hardship and social isolation have caused emotional and mental stresses to many people during the MCO. The loneliness, fear and anxieties are real; it is reported in the USA, the calls to mental health careline have been manifold during coronavirus pandemic. Our Muslim community is not spared from this crisis; therefore, we must be emotionally literate to do our best to understand and regulate our feelings during the MCO. The Prophet (PBUH) demonstrated that he understood the needs of his family members in an emotionally intelligent manner. He calmly responded to various feelings they had, either sad, confused or overwhelmed. As Muslims, we must practice clear communication among our family members so our sentiments are clearly expressed; we must choose to respond and not react to their emotions so that they feel safe.
Being sensitive to the needs of our family members is the key to creating harmonious space for all of us. There are ways we can manage our anxieties at home: being grateful to the blessings of Allah to us (Q, 3:145); being mindful about our Creator (Q, 13: 28) and our surroundings, and to let go of things that are beyond our controls because only Allah controls everything (Q, 10:49). Our perspective can empower us or defeat us. We should view loneliness during MCO as solitude and an opportunity to get closer to the Creator (Q, 21: 87-88) rather than a scary situation to be in. Certainly, the ability to build a stronger connection to Allah (Q, 33:35) in Ramadhan ultimately helps us to cope with the emotional challenges during MCO. We have lost an opportunity to be physically active outside our homes during MCO. Yet we can design activities that suit our personal needs. Online resources for home work out are plenty and easily assessible, and many accommodate the limited spaces we have at home.
Ramadhan also provides an opportunity for us to re-examine our relationship with food. It is not unknown that Muslim nations waste more food in Ramadhan than at any other time of the year. We must consume halal healthy food (Q, 2:172), avoid excessiveness (Q, 20:81), and we must avoid wastage at all cost (Q, 6:141). The Prophet (PBUH) exemplified that food consumption is to sustain our physical and spiritual health so that we may get to perform our ibadah with ease. This Ramadhan is an opportunity for us to re-evaluate and revitalize our physical health that may help us to achieve spiritual attainment.
We may not be able to host iftar or to accept invitation for iftar outside our home; we may miss the moment to perform congregation prayers, tadarrus, tarawih and i‘tikaf at our local mosque in this Ramadhan. Nevertheless, we must seize the endless virtues of Ramadhan that can definitely be as spiritually, socially, emotionally and physically uplifting.
Dr. Norbani Ismail is an assistant professor in Department of Fundamental and Interdisciplinary Studies, Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia